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Couple Sentenced for Embezzlement, False Entry into Corporate Books

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A husband and wife who pleaded guilty to embezzlement and false entry into corporate books were sentenced this morning in Berkshire Superior Court.

According to the office of Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless, George Vogel, 60, and Vivian A. Gagnon-Vogel, 49, of 16 Comanche Drive, North Adams, pleaded guilty to one count each of embezzlement and false entry to corporate books on January 15.

The couple took some $1.5 million from their employer, O'Connell Oil at the North Adams Convenience Plus, between Dec. 1, 2003 and Nov. 2, 2007.

Judge Peter Velis sentenced Vogel to a concurrent sentence of three to five years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. Velis sentenced Gagnon-Vogel to five to six years at the same prison on the false entry charge, and ordered her to serve a concurrent four to five-year sentence on the embezzlement charge.

The North Adams convenience store was managed by Vogel and Gagnon-Vogel was the bookkeeper in the company’s North Adams office. Police said she was taking up to $1,000 in cash a day to support a drug addiction and overstating credit card receipts to balance the books.

Update, May 26, 2010:  A third person, Theresa M. Hosier, 50, of West Shaft Road was sentenced Wednesday, May 26, in Berkshire Superior Court after pleading guilty to single counts of embezzlement and and false entry into corporate books.

Judge John A. Agostini placed her on probation for trhee years and ordered her to perform 500 hours of community service. The investigation was conducted by members of the North Adams Police Department.

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Mother of Slain N. Adams Man Get Probation

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A North Adams woman pleaded guilty Friday morning in Berkshire Superior Court to several charges related to the circumstances regarding the killing of Daniel Walters two years ago.

Constance Pratt, 46, Walter's mother, pleaded guilty to single counts of attempt to commit a crime (larceny from a person) and furnishing misleading information to a police officer.

Pratt, also known as Constance Winnie, was placed on two years probation by Judge John A. Agostini on the condition that she remain drug and alcohol free and undergo testing to determine that as well as counseling during the probationary period.

On the night of Aug. 20, 2008, Pratt drove Walters to the home of Tina Senecal in the Wheel Estates Mobile Home Park so that Walters could steal cocaine from Ronnel Garmie, who was living there. During the attempted heist, Walters was stabbed and killed by Garmie. After the altercation, Pratt provided false information to police.

Garmie was not indicted in the slaying but his drug ring was broken up and a number of people were charged with various drug violations.

The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office who were aided by members of the North Adams Police Department.
 

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Two Men Arrested, Facing Charges For Blackinton Break-Ins, Larceny

Patrick Ronan

State and local police monitor the east end of the Blackinton Mill on Thursday afternoon in search of suspects who had broken into the mill. Two suspects were arrested Thursday night in connection with the break-ins and robberies.

Updated on May 14 at 3:17 p.m.:

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Two local men were arrested Thursday night and are facing felony charges in connection to recent break-ins and copper theft at the Blackinton Mill.

Sam Malinowski, 22, of North Adams, and Dylan Forde, 24, of the town of Florida, were arraigned Friday morning at Northern Berkshire District Court and both were charged with counts of breaking and entering, destruction of property (of a value over $250) and malicious larceny (of a value over $250). According to Commissioner of Public Safety E. John Morocco,  "quite a large amount of copper" was stolen from the mill over the last several days.

"It looked like they maybe had been taking pieces out for some time," Morocco said.

David Moresi, building manager of the Blackinton Mill, said the stolen goods included copper plumbing, electrical wire pipes and feeder cables. He estimated the scrap value taken was in the vicinity of $3,000, while the cost of damages is "anywhere between $65,000 to $80,000."

"We'll be looking to get full prosecution to the fullest extent of the law," Moresi said. "This band of thieves had been hitting [the mill] since last weekend, and they just kept going back. They set up shop like it was their job."

According to police reports, North Adams police stopped the suspects, who were passengers in a 2001 Chevy Cavalier, on Thursday night at approximately 8 p.m. in the Big Y parking lot.

"The North Adams Police was phenomenal on this," Moresi said. "You don't often catch copper thieves."

On Friday afternoon, Sgt. James Burdick said the break-ins were "still under investigation."

May 13: NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — State police and several K-9 units responded to "suspicious activity" late Thursday afternoon at the Blackinton Mill, located on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Ashton Avenue.

"[Police] thought somebody was inside, that someone had broken in," North Adams Police Sgt. James Foley said Thursday night. "They ended up searching the building and didn't end up locating anybody."

According to police reports, North Adams police first arrived at the scene at 2 p.m., and was soon followed by three more units.

By 3:30 p.m., two North Adams cruisers, Pittsfield K-9 and state police K-9 vehicles were parked on the east entrance of the mill, according to eye-witness accounts. A Williamstown K-9 unit was located on the west end, while two more North Adams cruisers were outside the north perimeter on Massachusetts Avenue.

Foley confirmed that "infrared heat sensors" were used in an attempt to find the alleged suspect. He said there are "several people of interest" who police suspect broke into the mill, but he couldn't reveal their identities.

According to the police report, the scene was cleared at 4:52 p.m.

The mill was recently sold to two New York developers with plans to turn it into a commercial and residential development.

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Car Hits House Porch in North Adams

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Williamstown woman was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital after the car she was driving ran into a porch on West main Street.

Debora A. Harmatz, 50, of Maple Street was westbound at about 2:40 p.m. when her 1996 black Saturn CP left the roadway and rammed into the steps leading up to a porch at 287 West Main St. residence.

A call reporting the crash was made by an employee at the nearby Melissa's Hair & Nail Salon. A nieghbor said he came outside when he heard a loud crash and saw the car.

The Police and Fire departments responded to the scene, as did the North Adams Ambulance. A dog that was in the vehicle reportedly jumped out after the crash and the animal control officer was called.

The Saturn suffered front-end damage and was towed from the scene by Dean's Quality Auto; the wooden steps were demolished and a joist knocked out from the porch, along with other damage. No word if the dog was recovered yet.

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Swift Storm Knocks Out Power

Staff Reports

Cranwell Resort in Lenox tweeted us this photo of a large tree that fell after the storm came through. The pic was taken by the resort's director of sales, Dawn R. Jacobsson.

 NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Several sections of the county were hit by a fast-moving storm that downed trees and power lines. At 9 p.m., Western Mass. Electric Co. was reporting some 22,000 customers out of power in Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.


The wind split this tree in Williamstown.

Nearly all of New Ashford was reported out of power and nearly half of nearby Lanesborough. The hilltowns, including Becket and Washington, weathered the storm better, with no reported outages.

National Grid reported minor, scattered outages throughout, with about 31 customers out of power on Florida Mountain.

One our readers reported traffic lights out in Pittsfield shortly after the storm moved through and Cranwell Resort sent a picture of a large tree down in its driveway. "Tree down on road on our property — Our topnotch crew is already on the scene, removing debris," the Lenox resort tweeted us. A section of a large tree in Williamstown near the Dunkin' Donuts on Main Street also came down in the storm.

"Every county in WMECo's service area is affected, with the most customers without power in the towns of Sunderland, Agawam, Ludlow, Springfield, West Springfield, Hadley and Southampton," according to a press statement from WMECo.

WMECo reminds residents to treat all wires as live and stay a minimum of 10 feet away. Even getting close to an energized wire can have deadly consequences. Call 911 or WMECo immediately.

Home generators should always be installed by a qualified electrician. Improperly installed generators can backfeed into our lines, which could be deadly to our workers.

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